Thailand to seek review by UN aviation body after safety downgrade

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand will invite the United Nations' (UN) aviation agency to carry out a new inspection of the country's civil aviation body, the deputy transport minister said on Friday, a day after the UN agency downgraded its safety ratings.

The UN International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) downgraded Thailand to Category 2 from Category 1, giving it a red flag for missing a 90-day deadline to resolve significant safety concerns.

Thailand will take steps to improve flight safety conditions before the Montreal-based ICAO returns for another inspection in October or November, deputy transport minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told reporters.

"We have to be thorough before they come for the re-audit,"said Mr Arkhom. "Every problem must be fixed by then."

Japan and South Korea stopped Thailand-based airlines from flying charters and new routes because of safety concerns raised in late March, during the ICAO audit of Thailand's civil aviation body.

NokScoot, a joint venture between Nok Airlines PCL and a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines Ltd, and Thai AirAsia X were among Thailand's new crop of low-cost carriers hit by the March flight bans.

Thailand will run a training programme for 25 aviation officials from June 30 to July 11, Thai Transport Minister Prajin Junthong said.

From July 11, around 28 airlines are to be inspected for recertification, a procedure expected to end around October, Mr Prajin added.

The ICAO step means airlines in Thailand will not be able to add further routes, although they can operate routine flights, Mr Arkhom said.

National carrier Thai Airways International also called for quick improvements to Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation.

"As long as there still is a red flag, airlines are still more or less at risk," Thai Airways President Charumporn Jotikasthira said.

Thailand's cabinet removed the civil aviation chief this month over the slow improvement in aviation standards.

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